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Zach Galifianakis Interview: A Wrinkle In Time

Screen Rant sat down with Zach Galifinakis ahead of the release of Disney’s A Wrinkle In Time, and discussed his experience working on the film. His role of ‘Happy Medium’ was originally female so it took some adjusting to make it work for him, he also discusses the difference between working on this film and the more comedic roles he’s know for and an important piece of advice that Oprah gave to Storm Reid about her upcoming fame.

Screen Rant: First of all, I loved this film and I loved your role in this film.

Zach Galifinakis: Thank you.

Screen Rant: And what you said in the press conference actually kinda hits home to me a lot too, because my dad was a military guy and I grew up like that, but I do agree that there's a total, you can still have that kind of . . . you don't have to be . . . that, you know?

Zach Galifinakis: My dad was . . . my dad played football and, you know, has these old-fashioned qualities, that people could be seen as, you know, masculine, he's my hero.

Screen Rant: Yeah, mine too, same with me.

Zach Galifinakis: My dad's my hero. But, when men get together in congregation, they become weird and then that's where I go, 'oh, I see this is a weird group man thing'. My dad by himself was like the warmest, my dad is emotional, Greek, so there's that element, but in public or on a national stage or whatever, people talk . . . men have to be one way, I think that's part of the frustration, that men, whether they realize it or not have.

Screen Rant: Well, I think that's the brilliance of what this film did and kind of what you brought to it is, I know that this character that you portrayed was gender swapped.

Zach Galifinakis: Yeah.

Screen Rant: And I thought that was so brilliant, because it was . . . you get to see this guy, the happy medium who's this almost like guru, but he's also, you know, it was written as a female character. So, speaking of that, how did you approach that differently and what kind of character choices did you make . . . and did you base that on like any other performance you had done or had seen anybody else do?

Zach Galifinakis: Well, it was a little intimidating because of the nature of the type of storytelling in this movie, meaning this world in which the movie exists. For a comedic actor or whatever it is that I am, it's a little bit harder to figure out your purpose in that . . . because it's different. So, somebody like Ava, and I was saying it earlier, there's a leadership quality to her and there's a trust and she knows what she wants, but she's also willing to take something from you, you know,  'what is your idea about this?' So that collaborative effort is what was helpful to me, Ava kind of, not necessarily holding my hand, but treating me with . . . I think that I was, my confidence level really . . . I've never had confidence.

Screen Rant: Really?

Zach Galifinakis: In this whole business, it's hard for somebody that doesn't have that. My fame, that I have, but when it comes down to it, it's not that I'm nervous . . . I don't know, it's a confidence thing. You think about it, you meet with the director, you get confidence in that person, and then, then the rest kind of takes care of itself. As far as preparing for the role, it was tricky because of the things that you mentioned, the genderlessness of it or the. . .in the book it's written that way a bit, and it's a book. It's a book that's so respected, that's the biggest intimidation. . .

Screen Rant: Sure.

Zach Galifinakis: For a director or for an actor, how do you take that character that's in a book and give it the respect it needs, but also be able to facilitate a movie type format, that's the trickiest part of it.

Screen Rant: You guys did a great job though, because seriously, throughout the movie I don't think I could stop smiling, it was just so refreshing and such an uplifting film, it was just like wow, it's beautiful . . . like not just visually, but the message, I was like, 'man. . . every single moment was like, ‘this is great, this is what we need right now.' That's off of what my next question was . . . But, how much improv did you, were you able to do with this character?

Zach Galifinakis: I didn't want to do too much because, again, it might seem out of place in a movie like this. For improv to work, you also have to have other people improving sometimes, but Ava did ask for a little bit here and there and I was happy to give it to her, but, I'm real trepidatious about that stuff, it's easier for me just to say the lines.

Screen Rant: Sure.

Zach Galifinakis: It's just much easier, especially when the lines are so precious, and I thought the script was great, I thought it was there, I didn't want to ruin it with my dumb jokes. You know what I mean? There's part of that . . . that, not to overuse the word balance, but there's a balance within that too, you know we're doing kind of a serious scene here, but this character is a little strange, so you get away with a little of it, but I thought the editors and Ava hit the tone nicely.

Screen Rant: You get to work with some of the best young actors I've seen in a very long time, did you have any advice for them throughout this whole process?

Zach Galifinakis: You know, advice is a tough thing to do, it's a tough thing to give, I will say this, we all gathered to have dinner and Oprah gave advice to Storm, advice she didn't have to give, there were no cameras around, and Oprah says to Storm, 'hey, you're getting ready to be famous, I'd like to tell you, you will not change, because you have a strong family and you're a strong person, but the people around you will change.' And I'm watching this, and I'm like, you know, this wisdom, this matriarchal thing, that I get to see working on a movie like this, you don't get that when you're with guys, it's not that, it just isn't.

Screen Rant: You're right.

Zach Galifinakis: And I'm not saying that, like guys can be guys, I'm not saying. . . but look, there's a deeper level sometimes with these thoughtful . . hold on, I just wanna make sure I'm not getting off track here. I just. . . that wisdom that I saw Oprah give to Storm, I think every actor should have that little speech, cause it affects you.

Screen Rant: I mean you even just saying that to me, I'm not an actor, but it's a perspective thing for me right?

Zach Galifinakis: Yeah.

Screen Rant: So, looking at that, it's like, wow, that's in a lot of ways, that's completely true, and that's something that I don't see because I'm not an actor and I'm sure you do, because you are an actor.

Zach Galifinakis: Well, everything she said, everything Oprah said is right.

Screen Rant: I think everything that woman says is right anyway.

Zach Galifinakis: It's weird, and I was just telling her, I'm as cynical as they get, I'm Mr. Cynical, I have been, I mean as a comic, you're kind of expected to be, cynicism doesn't work if that other person is truthful.

Screen Rant: Yeah.

Zach Galifinakis: It doesn't work.

Screen Rant: That's the truth, I mean, I was literally just sitting outside in the hallway with her and, wow, it's a magical kinda thing.

Zach Galifinakis: And it's not . . . the weird thing about it, it shouldn't be confused with celebrity worship or any of that stuff, it's a different thing with her, she talks the talk, she walks the walk, and I only know that cause I were with her for like two weeks and that's not enough time to really get to know somebody, but you notice these things.

Screen Rant: Switching back to the movie real quick, Happy Medium's look, how influential were you with creating that look? Is it true that the man-bun was your idea?

Zach Galifinakis: I think, no, yes, partly, Ava sent me a bunch of images of a hair style and the one we ended up using was the one that I picked first, I said, 'this is uh, you know, a white guy with corn rows, perfect.'

Screen Rant: *Laughs*

Zach Galifinakis: So, my friend has a joke, never trust anybody with corn rows, especially if they're white.

Screen Rant: *Laughs*

Zach Galifinakis: It always made me laugh. So, she sent me the images, I was like 'yes, let's pick that' and then from there it was a give and take. I liked all of Ava's ideas, so it was pretty easy.

Screen Rant: I think this might be my last question. . . as an actor I'm sure you learn from every single role you do and every single set you're on and every single person you're with, so what are you going to take away from A Wrinkle in Time, from your experience and from the other actors, and just everything?

Zach Galifinakis: Well, I think I named what I will look back on. . . will be . . . the weirdness of the state we're in as a world and the timing and the timing of this story, I think I'll look back and go . . . oh man, hopefully we get to look back and go 'man the world was really upset back then and now we're a little bit ok.' But this experience is, I've never been involved with anything when the outside world and your movie making process are kind of. . .

Screen Rant: Sure.

Zach Galifinakis: Showing up at the same time for this kind of reconciliation, whatever the word is, that's, never experienced anything like that where thematically the outside world is almost thirsty for something like this and through coincidence I think almost that, that thirst, there might be a little quenching with this movie, It think.

Screen Rant: The coolest thing too that I noticed is like the diversity in this, but it’s one of those things where it’s just a good movie and I hope we get to a place where you don’t have to look at it like that.

Zach Galifinakis: I know, there was a great thing, you know eventually, these Olympians sitting there going ‘hey, I’d like to not be called a gay Olympian’

Screen Rant: Just call me an Olympian. Yeah.

Zach Galifinakis: These labels that keep wanting to put on, for good and bad, there’s just a little too much labeling.

MORE: AMC & Color of Change Reveal New Initiative for Wrinkle In Time

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